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8/10 ****/5 ~ Authentic video adaptation of Lewis Carroll classic.
Despite the widely held opinion that the material is unfilmable, Lewis Carroll's fantasy/nonsense classics Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871) have frequently been dramatized for films and television. While few of these productions have successfully translated Carroll's verbal and intellectual experimentation into cinema, several are of superior quality and hold an under-appreciated place in the history of the fantastic film.
Alice's Adventures in Videoland have been uneven in quality; there has been a tendency toward parody and experimentation, and several fine productions have been broadcast.
A particularly literate video "Alice" was produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Alice Through the Looking Glass (1974) was a detailed dramatization of the second "Alice" book which compensated for the heresies of the 1966 American television musical of the same title. The color videotape production combined human actors and puppetry with costumes and backgrounds based on the original Sir John Tenniel illustrations, and while there was some use of camera magic the focus was primarily on text and characterization.
The script was almost verbatim from the book; only a few minor vignettes, such as that with the Fawn in the Wood with No Name, were deleted. Episodes never previously filmed, including the train trip, the Looking Glass Insects, the rowboat ride with the Sheep, and the fight of the Lion and the Unicorn, were represented. The program captured the wit and melancholy mood, the substance and spirit, of the fantasy masterpiece.
The cast, culled from the best of English theatre, were chosen for their suitability for their roles rather than for their names and celebrity: outstanding were Geoffrey Bayldon's sentimental White Knight, Judy Parfitt's snappy Red Queen and Brenda Bruce's befuddled White Queen. Freddie Jones gave an extraordinarily rich on screen reading of Humpty Dumpty, rivaling Cyril Ritchard's famous recording.
Alice was acidly portrayed by little Sarah Sutton, the youngest actress to play Alice on the sound screen thus far, and the closest to the age of the character in the book ("exactly seven and a half"). Sutton grew up to co-star as a companion of "Doctor Who" on the classic science fiction television serial.
This version of "Alice in Wonderland" has rarely been re-broadcast and is deserving (if extant) of a DVD release.
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